Recent research by the Canadian IDRC and the Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano, published in Spanish in June, documents the ways in which women are particularly vulnerable to the problems brought about by climate change. Of four case studies, three are from Peru: Iquitos, the Amazon delta region and the Cumbaza basin.

Such vulnerability derives partly from the general factors that make women more vulnerable: “Women’s unequal access to resources, their almost sole responsibility for care of dependents, and the insecurity and precariousness of their paid labour all contribute to the feminisation of poverty in Latin America”

But the research finds that vulnerability also stems from those consequences of climate change that fall disproportionately on women and girls:

  • Women are gifted in the realm of developing strategies of resilience. However, their absence from positions of power means they “lack access to information that would enable them to build resilience”.
  • Marginal populations generally lack access to clean water, services, energy, food; “Women are at the frontlines of these pressures and vulnerable in situations of heightened climate risk, due to their responsibilities for guaranteeing water, food and care at home.”
  • Rural women are typically responsible for the time-consuming and exhausting job of collecting firewood, availability of which may decline with climate change.
  • Women tend to bear the key responsibility in practice for family illness and basic needs aggravated by climate change. “Women’s workload makes them more vulnerable in states of emergency and their safety and health always seem to be the last consideration – as the rest of the family’s security comes first.”

The positive side of the study resides in the number of instances they encounter, where groups of women organise locally to improve their well-being and that of their families. It cites the Comedor Las Abejitas group in Nuevo Belén, Peru. The key policy conclusion is the degree of creativity encountered and the way it points to the value of facilitating such community-based responses to the challenges of climate change.